Forty yards apart on the Browns’ practice complex Wednesday, Mike Holmgren and Colt McCoy talked about the mysteries of their futures. A swarm of fans stirred a buzz that the Browns might be going places. Will Holmgren and McCoy be going with them?
“It’s a crazy business sometimes,” Mike Holmgren said.
The heat was on in Berea.
The most sultry practice of training camp had just ended when two Browns on very different hot seats shared their points of view.
In the shade of a tent along the tall fence on the west end of the team compound, Holmgren passed another afternoon of not knowing how his presidency might play out under a new owner.
He is asked nonstop how things are going with the impending sale of the team.
“We’re trying,” he said, “to make it business as usual.”
Holmgren, his head coach, his business chiefs, his general manager, and bunches of others are here because he is — and he is here, as he often says, because of Randy Lerner.
It’s a training camp full of Holmgren guys. At some point, Holmgren indicated, he will talk to Jimmy Haslam and Haslam’s people if Lerner sells.
Holmgren will go to bat for his men when sits down in the Haslam camp. He will do it from the perspective of a man who has seen a million people hired and fired in the NFL. He knew the drill long before he re-hired Eric Mangini one year and canned him the next. He knows nothing is guaranteed for his biggest hires, Tom Heckert and Eric Mangini.
“Ultimately, with all of the football people, they’re judged on the record,” Holmgren said. “It’s always been that way.”
Browns fans — legions of them are showing up for training camp, emanating noise and hunger — care mostly about how the team looks, not who signs the checks.
They want answers to football questions, not terms of sale.
Fifty yards from the shade where Holmgren spoke, one of the key football players linked to Holmgren talked to writers in broad daylight.
It was Colt McCoy, who is on the verge of losing his job to a new player also linked to Holmgren, Brandon Weeden.
Holmgren’s hot seat involves not knowing how he might fit with Jimmy Haslam. He is not squirming in the chair. He has had made millions in a long career that might land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A glorious exit would be nice but is not essential to his legacy.
McCoy’s hot seat is much less comfortable. He has not enjoyed NFL success. What happens this year will set a tone for his chance to break through.
McCoy looked good in Wednesday’s practice. He threw a pick to safety Usama Young in a 7-on-7 drill. In 11-on-11 work, though, he seemed sharper than Weeden — albeit running the second-string offense while the rookie directed the “ones.”
Page 2 of 3 - There was McCoy hitting Jordan Norwood right on the hands, in stride, on a beautifully timed spiral. There was McCoy leading rookie Travis Benjamin perfectly on a slant. There he was sailing a strike to Josh Cooper on a fade in the end zone.
Notice that none of the receivers is a first-stringer. Weeden has been getting almost all of the action with those “ones.” McCoy doesn’t like it, but he is keeping any criticism to himself.
How can this be a competition if McCoy isn’t getting to compete with the first string?
“Those would be better questions for Pat and Brad (Childress),” McCoy said, glancing upstairs where the head coach and offensive coordinator share secrets.
Back in the shade, Holmgren addressed the issue. One can only wonder if his analysis would cause McCoy to roll his eyes.
“Right now,” Holmgren said, “I think it’s a healthy competition at quarterback. Colt is having a good camp. Seneca (Wallace) is completing balls.”
Holmgren had talked about Weeden before his nods to McCoy and Wallace.
“It’s clear to anyone who watches practice,” Holmgren said, “that he can really throw the ball.”
The words “maturity” and “bright future” rolled off the president’s tongue. At times in the past, Holmgren says, he has seen quarterbacks arrive in camp and quickly expose themselves as overmatched.
“That’s not the case with Brandon,” Holmgren said.
Training camp is a week old. McCoy is saying he will keep plugging away, control what he can control. Weeden is warming up for his first NFL start, on Aug. 10 at Detroit.
The ownership whirl raises a question few would have asked a few months ago. Who will be with the Browns longer? Holmgren? Or McCoy?
“I want to make this about the team,” McCoy said, “not me.”
It’s hard to believe Holmgren is staying out of this, although he has said a thousand times something he repeated Wednesday: “I’m not coaching any more.”
One can’t say there are no Browns fans any more, despite the four-year record of 18-46, despite the tidal wave boat-rocking of an ownership change. At least, the team announced Wednesday that three of the eight regular-season home games (Eagles, Bills, Steelers) sold out the first day tickets went on sale.
“The fans are tremendous,” Holmgren said. “Let’s give ‘em some hope.”
If hope blooms into wins, the president said, finding tickets, not selling tickets, will be “the problem.”
Meanwhile, the process of trying to sift through reality in the summer heat of Berea marches on.
The 2011 Browns lost nine of their last 10 games. McCoy more than likely lost his job to a draft pick.
Page 3 of 3 - Midway through practice, McCoy was rushed hard. He had to roll right. He couldn’t find a receiver. He had to throw the ball away. It sailed out of the end zone.
“C’mon, Colt!” he muttered to himself as he came to a stop.
C’mon? And do ... what?